StarCraft II, two months on

I’ve mentioned StarCraft II twice before, here and here, with my thoughts immediately after purchasing and about a week later, approximately.  Thought that it’d be interesting to post an update today, about two months after having purchased the game.

First, the single player campaign:  Like the previous entries in the StarCraft series, I played through to completion, but only on the ‘Normal’ difficulty level.  I didn’t particularly enjoy the single player mode.  I’m not sure why that is; it just didn’t excite me.  But I pressed through it in part to find out what happened in the storyline, and in part because my Internet was out of commission during that week, and it was something I could do offline.

Next, the multiplayer:  As I commented before, StarCraft II (like all RTS games) is a game that I really really want to be awesome at.  I love thinking about the strategies, and the thinking and the supportive portion of the community that surrounds the game.  But I’m not really competitive in the game.  At all.

Part of this is that I don’t actually seem to play it much.  Over the past two months, I’ve totalled 60 ranked ladder matches, half of those in the very first week.  And during these two months, I’ve reached the lofty heights of 8th rank in Bronze division (which for the non-Starcraft players out there, is a a nice way of saying that I was amongst the very best of the very worst players).

My last ranked match was two days ago.  Before that, a week ago.  Before that, two weeks ago.  Each of those lasted a total of about twenty minutes.  So I’m hardly playing it at all.

But wow am I spending time on it.  I watch the Day9 dailies every day.  I read the Team Liquid strategy forums.  And wow do I watch a lot of replays.  I have to say, I’ve never seen a game which you can be terrible at and spend this much time not-playing, and yet still feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth.

It makes me wonder whether there are other ways to achieve the same “I got my moneys’ worth from this game even though I can’t actually play it” reaction.

I suspect that it works so well with StarCraft because of the three (approximately) balanced armies, which all work so differently that most players can only learn to play well as one of them.  So players have to pick a single side in the conflict, much like picking a team to support in professional sports.  I play as a Zerg, and I’m not very good at it.  But  every time Dimaga or some other high-ranking Zerg player does well in a match, to me it feels like a victory for “my team”, very nearly as if I’d done it myself.  Or at least, that’s the way it seems to me.  So it’s okay if I don’t play StarCraft much myself;  I’ve got people representing my side in the big tournaments.

I don’t think it’s possible to achieve that level of outside-the-game involvement with the plot-based and content-tourism games that are the norm these days.  To a limited extent, you see similar outside-the-game time expenditures for heavily complicated non-story-driven games, games such as Dwarf Fortress, NetHack, and to a lesser extent, Spelunky and MineCraft.  You also see it in certain heavily customisation-based games, such as The Sims.  But most games aren’t like these;  most games are designed to be easily played through by most players, and then to end and never be played again.

I wonder whether the modern slew of Facebook games (and other “social” games) get people really thinking about and researching them when they’re not actually playing.  I’ve never played a game of this type;  with the direction the industry’s been going the last few years, maybe I really should.

(Also, for those hungry for MMORPG Tycoon 2 updates, yes, I’m still coding and making progress.  I’ll post an update tomorrow.  :) )